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pour out all the treasures and various excellence of nature, grandeur, and scope of design, exquisite finishing, force, grace, delicacy, the strength of man, the softness of woman, the playfulness of infancy, thought, feeling, invention, imitation, labour, ease, and every quality that can distinguish a picture, except colour. Michael Angelo, in a word, stamped his own character on his works, or recast Nature in a mould of his own, leaving out much that was excellent : Raphael received his inspiration from without, and his genius caught the lambent flame of grace, of truth, and grandeur, which are reflected in his works with a light clear, transparent and unfading.
L. Will you mention one or two things that particularly struck you ?
H. There is a figure of a man leading a horse in the Attila, which I think peculiarly characteristic. It is an ordinary face and figure, in a somewhat awkward dress : but he seems as if he had literally walked into the picture at that instant; he is looking forward with a mixture of earnestness and curiosity, as if the scene were passing before him, and every part of his figure and dress is flexible and in motion, pliant to the painter's plastic touch. This figure, so unconstrained and free, animated, salient, put
me in mind, compared with the usual stiffness and shackles of the art, of chain-armour used by the knights of old instead of coat-of-mail. Raphael's fresco figures seem the least of all others taken from plaster-casts; this is more than can be said of Michael Angelo's, which might be taken from, or would serve for, very noble ones.
The horses in the same picture also delight me. Though dumb, they appear as though they could speak, and were privy to the import of the scene. Their inflated nostrils and speckled skins are like a kind of proud flesh; or they are animals spiritualised. In the Miracle of Bolsano is that group of children, round-faced, smiling, with large-orbed eyes, like infancy nestling in the arms of affection ; the studied elegance of the choir of tender novices, with all their sense of the godliness of their function and the beauty of holiness; and the hard, liny, individual portraits of priests and cardinals on the right hand, which have the same life, spirit, boldness and marked character, as if you could have looked in upon the assembled conclave. Neither painting nor popery ever produced any thing finer. There is the utmost hardness and materiality of outline, with a spirit of fire. The School of Athens is full of striking parts and ingenious contrasts ; but I
prefer to it the Convocation of Saints, with that noble circle of Prophets and Apostles in the sky, on whose bent foreheads and downcast eyes you see written the City of the Blest, the beatific presence of the Most High and the Glory hereafter to be revealed, a solemn brightness and a fearful dream, and that scarce less inspired circle of sages canonised here on earth, poets, heroes, and philosophers, with the painter himself, entering on one side like the recording angel, smiling in youthful beauty, and scarce conscious of the scene he has embodied. If there is a failure in any of these frescoes, it is, I think, in the Parnassus, in which there is something quaint and affected. In the St Peter delivered from prison, he has burst with Rembrandt into the dark chambers of night, and thrown a glory round them. In the story of Cupid and Psyche, at the Little Farnese, he has, I think, even surpassed himself in a certain swelling and voluptuous grace, as if beauty grew and ripened under his touch, and the very genius of ancient fable hovered over his enamoured pencil.
L. I believe you when you praise, not always when you condemn. Was there any thing else that you saw to give you a higher idea of him than the specimens we have in this country?
H. Nothing superior to the Cartoons for boldness of design and execution; but I think his best oil pictures are abroad, though I had seen most of them before in the Louvre. I had not, however, seen the Crowning of the Virgin, which is in the picture-gallery of the Vatican, and appears to me one of his very highest-wrought pictures. The Virgin in the clouds is of an admirable sedateness and dignity, and over the throng of breathing faces below there is poured a stream of joy and fervid devotion that can be compared to nothing but the golden light that evening skies pour on the edges of the surging
" Hope elevates, and joy brightens their every feature.” The Foligno Virgin was at Paris, in which I cannot say I am quite satisfied with the Madonna ; it has rather a precieuse expression ; but I know not enough how to admire the innumerable heads of cherubs surrounding her, touched in with such care and delicacy, yet so as scarcely to be perceptible except on close inspection, nor that figure of the winged cherub below, offering the casket, and with his round, chubby face and limbs as full of rosy health and joy, as the cup is full of the juice of the purple vine. There is another picture of his I will mention, the Leo X in the Palace Pitti, “on his front engraven thought and public care;
again, that little portrait in a cap in the Louvre, muffled in thought and buried in a kind of mental chiaro scuro. When I think of these and so many other of his inimitable works, “scattered like stray-gifts o'er the earth,” meeting our thoughts half-way, and yet carrying them farther than we should have been able of ourselves, enriching, refining, exalting all around, I am at a loss to find motives for equal admiration or gratitude in what Michael Angelo has left, though his Prophets and Sibyls on the walls of the Sistine Chapel are thumping makeweights thrown into the opposite scale. It is nearly impossible to weigh or measure their different merits. Perhaps Michael Angelo's works, in their vastness and unity, may give a greater blow to some imaginations and lift the mind more out of itself, though accompanied with less delight or food for reflection, resembling the rocky precipice, whose“ stately height though bare” overlooks the various excellence and beauty of subjected art.
L. I do not think your premises warrant your conclusion. If what you have said of each is true, I should give the undoubted preference to Raphael as at least the greater painter, if not the greater man.
I must prefer the finest face to the largest mask.